Friday, June 22, 2018

Lake Worth’s “Lolly the Trolley” and the West Palm Beach ferry to the Town of Palm Beach.

Does history about the cities of Lake Worth and West Palm interest you? If you are on Facebook highly recommend joining a group called “Palm Beaches Remembered.” Yes. There used to be a ferry in operation from West Palm Beach to Palm Beach. Learn more about that below. And there also used to be a City structure that blocked the view of the Intracoastal in West Palm. A lot of people complained about that saying it was constructed in the wrong place. That public building was later torn down.

Information is posted on Palm Beaches Remembered from collections of Palm Beach County memories in the form of photos and other memorabilia. You never know what is going to appear and it’s interesting to read the recollections of others in the comments that follow.

There are many Lake Worth memories. These are
passes that were issued when the City
had its own trolley system.
Passes used in the days of Lolly the Trolley.

The City of Lake Worth once operated its own local transit operation. Actually it consisted of two trolleys that ran from the Beach, through the Downtown, past Lake Worth Towers, the High School, to the Tri-Rail station and the former Publix on Lake Worth Road. I believe the trolley also went north on Dixie Hwy. into West Palm Beach to the Winn-Dixie at Palm Coast Plaza. It cost about $1 to ride and was subsidized and operated by the City. The dates on the passes above are 1996 and 1997.

Operations stopped sometime in the early-2000s. The excuse given was the cost was too-heavily subsidized by the City. Fare revenue made up only a very small portion of the cost to operate the trolleys. They were also said to be difficult to maintain as each was made by a different manufacturer and they didn’t share parts. The trolleys were in the shop and out of service many times which did not help the image of reliability. Regardless, they were a mainstay of Lake Worth for many years and provided a needed service.

Transit between our Beach and points further west including unincorporated County (e.g., Palm Beach State College), has been identified as a recurring need: linking these destinations that are not adequately served by mass transit. I recall hearing the City had grant money available to operate such a system but didn’t have the money to buy the equipment.

Talk of running a trolley service once again became a serious policy discussion for a time after January 2016 when the public was excited about the Gulfstream Hotel re-opening and a new hotel expansion on the block’s western half. Demand for such a service made perfect sense. If something does begin to happen with the Gulfstream property it might be a good idea to get a trolley system up and running to the Beach and points Downtown and then on to the Tri-Rail station and points west in suburban Lake Worth.

A simpler time in West Palm Beach history.

Remember the ferry?
View of the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront with former library in background.

For many of you new to the area the picture above will look like one from a foreign land. The West Palm Beach City Library, the one built in 1962, used to sit at the east end of Clematis Street. It was a Mid-Century Moderne in some people’s eyes and an eyesore to others. I actually think the first years of the building, with the artwork suspended around it and fountains surrounding it, was quite attractive. Later years saw those features either removed or not maintained. Most people, including myself, agree the building was put in the wrong place. It blocked the view of the water from those using Clematis Street.

According to people commenting on Facebook, a ferry operated between downtown West Palm Beach and the Town of Palm Beach during the 1960s. With all the talk in May 2017 during the “Point A to Point B” discussions about traffic in downtown West Palm Beach and the bridges to the barrier island, maybe resurrecting a ferry for people to cross over into Palm Beach is something whose time has come again.

Possibly instead of a traditional boat, such as the one pictured, it could be a hydrofoil or a hovercraft of some sort. Both would be faster and have a 21st century vibe. To use this method one would have to leave the car in West Palm Beach in one of the many downtown parking garages and then walk on foot to the water transport. There are already day-docks functioning along the current waterfront.

Just a few ideas from the past that could make everyone’s lives simpler to get around in the present day.